If you want to create a buzz about your business, grab some much needed attention, and have your products fly out the window, then you need good public relations. Clued-up companies know that it’s their most powerful marketing tool and one of their biggest assets.
PR is all about your reputation. It’s the sum total of what you say and do, and what others say about you; and it’s influenced by the communication you have with all relevant stakeholders—primarily your customers.
The objectives of good PR are to build awareness, to stand out from the crowd, to deepen the relationship with existing customers, and to gain new ones. And it’s not difficult to do—not if you know the insider secret of how to attract the media’s attention. There’s just one very simple rule you have to stick to if you want to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. All will be revealed soon.
Don’t just think about PR for individual projects; it’s a sustained campaign. The true power of PR is built over time, where every mention in the media raises awareness and ultimately creates a desire for your business, products, and services. It’s word-of-mouth, and done well, it creates more demand in the market place, enhances your credibility, and takes your company to the next level.
How does PR work?
Time and again research has shown that if a message is delivered by an objective third party (and in PR that means the media), it has more credibility and authority than a commercial message. It’s much more persuasive. Advertising does not build a brand; PR does. The Body Shop rarely advertised, yet they are a successful global brand. PR is not just about one product; it’s a sustained way of communicating with your target audience, and it relies on four things:
– Originator – you and your company
– Messenger – article, magazine, TV, or radio spot
– Audience – customers, potential customers, employees, and all relevant stakeholders
– Feedback – to make sure you’ve made an impact
The secret to getting it
The ultimate insider secret of getting PR is to think like a reporter. That’s it. Simple.
But before you approach the media you need to take on board some harsh facts of life.
Reporters don’t care about you, your company, your products, or your website. They are under extreme time pressures, are struggling to fill white space on pages or dead air time, have editors breathing down their necks, and are tired of being harassed by PR people.
So what you have to do is give them something they want—a gift that will make their life easier. And what they want more than anything else in the world is a good story. Do that and they will become your new best friend, and suddenly develop a passionate interest in you, your company, your products, and even your website. So, how do you go about creating a story about your company or latest product? By being creative and having fun.
Let your creative juices flow
This is where you really can let rip and have the time of your life. Turn off the phones, power down the computers, and leave the office. You could take your staff out to the park or perhaps have a picnic by the lake. Environment is important; brainstorming should not be done at your computer. If you’re a single gal operation, grab a friend and mark out some time one morning or afternoon to come up with fresh, innovative, and imaginative ways of getting some great PR for your company. Start off by stating the objective of the session—to come up with a story angle for your latest product, or to introduce a new key member of staff to the world.
Then kick-off the session with an ice breaker, let everyone talk about great news stories or articles they’ve seen or heard the previous week, and the reasons that made them so compelling.
Now you’re ready to hear some ideas; let everyone call them out, it doesn’t matter how crazy they sound—painting your building orange, riding down Times Square on horseback—you never know where the discussions will lead. The important thing is to keep the ideas flowing and to write them all down a flip board. Offer a prize for the best one.
What if to celebrate the hiring of a new manager someone suggests that your top employee is given a free holiday, or you sponsor the local baseball team, or have a giant cardboard cut out of one your products standing outside your office? Now you’re starting to have some stories with potential. Be creative, think so far outside of the box that you can’t even see it. The box becomes a dot on the horizon; have fun, think like a child, and be imaginative.
When you have your story, you need to get it to the media, and this is usually done via a press release. There are many different styles, but they all follow the same general rules.
Press releases are key
First, a warning. Every year millions of trees are felled to create press releases that never ever lead to a single news story. Reporters like to keep them inside one of their most treasured possessions—the bin. That’s the final resting place of 99% of all press releases, and their fate is decided within seconds.
First, you need an attention-grabbing headline. Let’s say you’re in the shoe-selling business. Which one of the following do you think will attract the most attention?
“New range of shoes give added comfort”
“Why some shoes will damage you for life”
Now you’re ready to start writing the rest of the release…
Target your message
Successful PR is all about reaching the right audience, and matching your target audience with the right media channels is essential. If your customers are stay-at-home moms or women in their 50s, there’s no point getting in touch with men’s magazines or shows catering to the male demographic.
In deciding where to pitch your story, you need to know about your customers. What radio shows do they listen to? What television shows do they watch? What websites do they go to? What are their newspaper and magazine preferences? Take the time to learn about the media outlets you want to target and take notes on the types of stories they use.
If you’re thinking about getting your story on an afternoon radio show, think about what people might want to hear on the long congested commute home when radio is their only comfort in the car.
You should be targeting local and national press as well as trade publications. It may well be that the trade publications create
the biggest buzz; they’re read by your competitors and anyone who matters in your industry. And as much as the journalists love an original story, they do sometimes act like sheep. They go through dozens of publications with a fine tooth comb in the hunt for a story, and if a buzz is being created somewhere, they want a piece of the action. Sometimes the media feeds off itself. If you have a great story, you‘ll be on their speed dial list.
Create a buzz
There are so many ways to create a buzz about your business, and they don’t need to cost the earth. Press releases are one way, but they are not the only way. Word-of-mouth is so effective that you can’t even put a price on its value to your organization. Getting people to talk you up and talk about you is one of the best marketing and promoting strategies there is. So where do you start?
Let’s say you’re launching a new product or company. Get your friends to talk about it, blog about it, and recommend it to others. Talk at every available opportunity; at shows, seminars, and industry events. If you wrote a book about dolls, visit some conventions and societies or clubs. Blog about it yourself and establish your credibility in the field. Use your expertise to write features, articles, or news stories. Get in touch with your local media outlets and offer yourself up as a guest expert with great stories and information.
Then you need to maintain the buzz. If you’re on the net, join discussion boards, community groups, and chat rooms and create an audience. Many companies are turning their attention to social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube to post videos, host discussions, offer tips and advice, and as a forum for customer reviews.
Take advantage of technology to e-mail your customers with updates and details about anything fascinating on the horizon, or send them regular newsletters; create a desire for what’s coming next and deepen your relationship with them. This isn’t spamming as you will have already asked their permission to send them updates of anything that might be of benefit to them. You need to be proactive; people aren’t going to come knocking on your door unless you start telling them about the brilliant things you have to offer.
Good PR doesn’t just happen overnight. You must work at it with patience and persistence and look for every opportunity to get your message out. PR people always read and watch the news, looking out for stories that may tie in with their clients’ products or services. Maybe you don’t have the time to do this. Keep your products and services at the back of your mind whenever you come across news programs. Conduct a poll or survey or a unique contest; these can generate lots of coverage.
You could also invite members of the media to swing by your office for a chat, or buy them lunch and introduce yourself. Perhaps even host a media event—a champagne reception at your headquarters. After a story, a journalist’s next love is free food and drink.
Then when you have received press attention for your story, maintain the relationship. Call or write to the reporter or editor to say thank you for the coverage. Done well, PR can bring amazing results.
Press releases that land in the trash can:
“We’re lowering our prices” – not really earth shattering is it? You’re just telling a journalist that your prices are low. No story there.
“We’ve got great service” – if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in business. Again, no story there.
“We have a wide variety of stock” – that press release is still heading for the bin.
Unless you can think of something really interesting to say about any of these, don’t bother putting the release in the envelope. Perhaps there’s a fascinating way you source your products or you sell books to a children’s home, and your low prices have allowed them to splash out on a safari. Then you might be onto something.
How to handle the media
– Make yourself available day and night.
– Understand what makes a good story.
– No doesn’t always mean no. It may mean “I’m just really busy right now.” Don’t be discouraged, PR is about building lasting relationships.
– Never try and sell a story when a journalist is approaching a deadline—it’s the busiest time of day. Of course, deadlines vary, but for a daily newspaper it would usually be from 2:00 p.m. on. When you call, you could ask if there’s a deadline looming and arrange a time to call back.
– Get to the point as journalists are usually working on several stories at once and don’t have a surplus of time.
– Don’t exaggerate or bribe anyone to give you media coverage. A story is good or it isn’t.
– Journalists are human, too. They hate hearing pitches. Talk to them like a normal human being. If you’ve read one of their stories or heard one of their reports, compliment them on it. They love praise just as much as the next person.
Classic PR Disasters:
– In the early 1990s, Gerald Ratner, founder & boss of the UK’s largest jewelry retail chain, Ratner’s, described some of his products as ‘crap’. Not surprisingly, sales plummeted and hundreds of millions of dollars were wiped off the face of his company.
– McDonald’s sued 2 unemployed environmental activists for defamation in a case that ran for 2 and a half years.
– Ford had to recall Firestone tires on Explorer utility vehicles following up to 200 deaths and accidents in the US involving defects in the tires. Both Ford and Firestone suffered massive dents to their profits.
Press Kit Recipe
This is your introduction to the media, a promotional pack that tells them about you and your company. Don’t assume that if you spend a huge sum of cash on a glossy brochure that reporters will spend more time pouring over every page. They won’t. Journalists are so time-pressed that it’s no surprise they open their mail close to the trash cans. So here’s what you need to include if you want to grab their attention, keeping your glossies from the depths of the circular file.
– Biography – keep it brief; as wonderful as you are, they don’t want your life story
– Press Release – well written with a great story
– Articles – any magazine or newspaper articles about you; remember to keep this up-to-date
– CD/DVD – any TV, radio, or podcast spots you have done
– Business card – nothing too fancy or too bland
– Product sample – everyone loves a freebie
– Website – create a link on your website to have the entire press kit available as a download
Don’t overdo it with fancy fonts and colors; you don’t want to give the reader a headache.© Copyright 2010 Ali Brown